Mike Kueber's Blog

January 30, 2013

Modern campaigning

Filed under: Issues,Politics — Mike Kueber @ 11:06 pm
Tags: , ,

Since deciding to run for the San Antonio City Council, I have been forced to consider two presumed truisms in modern campaigning, as articulated recently by columnists for the local daily newspaper:

  • Money in politics.  Columnist Gilbert Garcia recounted the story of a candidate being asked who was running her campaign:
    • When Marisa Perez appeared before the San Antonio Express-News Editorial Board last September, she was asked who was running her campaign.  It’s usually not viewed as a gotcha question. If you’re putting yourself out there in a political race, it’s a given that you’ll have to reveal how much your campaign is raising and spending, what you do for a living and who is working to get you elected.
  • Intensive work.  Columnist Brian Chasnoff described a project to reach citizens unlikely to vote: 
    • The premise is simple: Every reliable voter has a constellation of friends and relatives who don’t vote, and “we can leverage our personal relationships to encourage people to do things,” Castro says.  “It’s very intensive work.  There’s a lot of follow-through and a lot of handholding because you’ve got to help people craft the message.”

The two truisms are obviously related.  With the first truism, the media wants to know how much money you are going to spend because that indicates whether you are likely to be a serious candidate.  Although democratic idealists may object based on the principle that money is not the same thing as votes, the second truism reminds that it takes money to do the intensive work required to earn votes.

When I went to Ohio a few months ago to volunteer for Romney, I saw first-hand the immense effort expended to persuade a few undecided or, more likely, unreliable voters to go to the polls.  Campaign computers have mined the available voter data, and sliced and diced it in ways that inform all future contacts – who, how, what, when.  Of course, these swing voters become even more important when national campaigns focus on only a handful of swing states.

When I ran for Congress in 2010, I spent $15,000.  Most of the money went toward a mass-mailing of my campaign brochure to voters in the previous primary.  The remaining money went to pay for (a) the 5,000 brochures that I handed out when block-walking and (b) an ad in the Express-News, which was designed to refer voters to my website.  I did no TV or radio ads (too expensive) and no signs (non-informative), and unfortunately there was almost no free media coverage of the campaign.  My guiding principle was to get the most information to the most voters.  Obviously, the experts and professionals have decided that is inefficient and ineffective.  And probably naïve. 

I wish more voters took their vote seriously by proactively studying the candidates and didn’t need to be persuaded by emotional, superficial, non-informational appeals.  And I wish voters refused to vote for candidates who have already mortgaged their future votes by accepting large sums of money from contributors.     




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